The world is scarier than normal these days.

You’re probably thinking, “well yeah, no s**t dude,” and you are correct. Since the pandemic hit in mid-March, so much has changed in every facet of our lives and livelihoods. Technology and advances in business and marketing tools were already speeding along at a trekkian rate, but the chaotic uncertainty that has befallen our globe in the past five months was even faster.

Concerning marketing and advertising, a lot of companies (especially SMB’s) were already reaching their own various uncertain points, pre-pandemic. Many just didn’t know which direction to take with their marketing initiatives anymore. MarTech, for all it’s terrific capabilities and scarily-cool features, has saturated the landscape to the point of overwhelming and confusing clients – which is the opposite of what good marketing aims to do in the first place.

Perhaps now, as businesses adjust to new operations, personnel groupings and overall models, this may be a good time to get back to basics. In discussing this idea with several colleagues and in various posts among peers on LinkedIn, most agree that this could be a chance to hit the marketing reset button in a lot of ways. Simple is good. “Tried and true” is such because after all, it works. Maybe it’s time to revisit that idea.

But with all those fancy bells and whistles still waving around like carrot-bait to the unsuspecting rabbit, it’s important to get the right perspective on what those simple things are.

Having been at ground level on both the agency and client sides in recent years, as well as an elevated perspective of both in recent months since my layoff, I’ve seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t. When breaking strategies down to the basics, often it becomes what not to do, that leads to success.

Don’t put a square peg in a round hole

We’ve all heard this before, and it’s one of the truest idioms of all time. It starts with your team. Simply put, don’t put people in places that they, and in turn, your company, can’t succeed. That’s just Organization 101. Just because someone on staff knows how to use MS-Word, doesn’t qualify them as a software engineer. Nor is a frequent flier qualified to be a pilot. Instead, you want the right people in the right places, according to their strengths and expertise, to contribute their parts to the bigger picture. Sounds simple right? It’s surpising how often businesses get this wrong. Whether by piling on numberless new duties or shifting/consolidating so much that the person finds herself in essentially a whole new role, it works against the organization almost every time. Learn where people and their strengths fit together. Cohesion is everything. What is synergistic internally, will translate to good work externally.

Don’t not be helpful and informative

Face it, people don’t want to get sold to. They don’t want to hear about your latest 20% off event or how miraculous your product is. Those are the “what and where” details. Clients and customers want a real connection. They want something they can relate to. They want good information and help with a problem they are facing. They want to know why they should partner with, or buy from you and not the other guy down the street. You address this with the “why and how.” Too many companies focus on the former, which is often tuned right out by their target audience. In times like these, being helpful and educational, and effectively communicating with your audience is more important than ever. They can get whatever product or service anywhere. Good, basic marketing will show them why they should get it from you. Don’t always sell – always help.

Don’t over-hype

This should be a no-brainer, but some busineses teeter perilously on the edge of straight up lying, when all they really want to do is enhance some facts. Of course everyone wants to hype up their products or services. New rollouts and promos should do just that, in fact. But there is a line. It’s all about setting expectations – realistic, honest ones – not fluffy BS. When you over-hype a product or over-promise a service, client and customer expectations change. If you’re too good at either of those things, they will start to believe your product or service can do things it cannot do. This is bad, bad territory. Once they realize your product or service does not live up to the capabilities you told them they have, you will lose their trust. You will lose credibility. You will lose revenue. Nobody wins. So just be honest. Own your products and services and be realistic about what they can and cannot do for someone. Show transparency. Don’t over-hype. Don’t promise ABC if you cannot deliver ABC, and hopefully D, E and F, too.

In summary

So, what does all this mean with regard to the idea of going back to marketing basics, you might ask? It means that doing just that, is not a bad thing, especially with the frightening state of the world today. The pandemic notwithstanding, a lot of the marketing world has taken some things for granted in favor of shiny, new, complicated toys and in turn, have lost some of their real values.

Focusing on, and optimizing those for granted channels could have a strong, lasting impact as businesses reset and reassess. Good, clean websites, active and engaging social media, entertaining videos, helpful email campaigns, memorable graphics and branding, informative blogs, etc. By their nature, you can’t fluff these up too much – a brick is still a brick at the end of the day. But these bricks build trust and credibility, things that everyone is yearning for right now. They can build a strong, needed – and simple – foundation, especially for SMB’s. It might not be a bad time to scale back to that.

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